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Mines safety bulletin no. 76 | 13 May 2008 | Version 1

The presence of chrysotile (white asbestos) in brake and clutch linings

Does your mine site know that trace amounts of white asbestos may be contained within brake and clutch friction material?

1.0 Chrysotile in brake and clutch linings

Until recently, chrysotile asbestos was used in the manufacture of some friction products, including brake and clutch assemblies. Mines throughout Queensland have systematically replaced these products with asbestos free alternatives.

A nationwide ban was imposed in December 2003 but there may be circumstances where some friction products containing white asbestos remain.

2.0 Safety management system to prevent the occurrence

Question: Does your safety management system adequately ensure that products containing asbestos are not introduced onto the mine sites?

Question: Do you check with your suppliers to ensure brake linings are asbestos free?

The potential also exists for:

  • some older vehicles at mines and quarries to be fitted with asbestos brake assemblies or contain trace amounts of asbestos from previous friction products
  • introduction of products containing asbestos by, for example, acquisition of second hand plant, or use of contractors or hired plant.

In any case, all maintenance work on brake assemblies should be conducted in a way that minimises the creation of airborne dust. All friction material dust should be treated as potentially hazardous.

The following practices should be adhered to when working with friction products:

  • Do not use compressed air for cleaning purposes as it is notorious for generating airborne dust
  • Do not use high speed abrasive sanders, drills and grinders on these friction linings
  • Do use an industrial vacuum with HEPA filters or wet cleaning methods.

Guidance can be obtained from the Code of Practice for the Management and Control of Asbestos in Workplaces [NOHSC:2018 (2005)]. Appendix 1 of this document provides specific guidance on the Inspection of Asbestos Friction Materials.

3.0 Other potential sources of asbestos at your mine site

The mine's Safety and Health Management System must ensure mine workers are not exposed to materials containing asbestos.

Asbestos may be in buildings (such as asbestos cement sheeting, thermal insulation, vinyl floor covering) or in plant (i.e.high pressure gaskets, brake and clutch assemblies).

Asbestiform minerals, or minerals with a fibrous habit, may also be present as a contaminant in the mine rock.

4.0 Guidance

The following information provides guidance on how to comply with the legislation and protect the health of mine workers.

4.1 What is asbestos?

Asbestos refers to the fibrous form of mineral silicates belonging to the serpentine and amphobile group of minerals. The most common forms of asbestos encountered are:

  • Chrysotile (white asbestos)
  • Amosite (brown asbestos)
  • Crocidolite (blue asbestos).

4.2 Health effects from exposure to asbestos

The health effects from exposure to asbestos fibres are well documented. The inhalation of asbestos fibres is known to cause asbestosis, mesothelioma and lung cancer; three potentially fatal respiratory diseases.

More information about asbestos related disease is available from Queensland Health, Asbestos health risks.

4.3 Forms of asbestos containing materials found in workplaces and plant

The Australian Safety and Compensation Council (ASCC) classifies asbestos containing materials as friable or bonded.

4.3.1 Friable asbestos containing materials

These represent the greatest risk to health as they can be easily crumbled and crushed by hand pressure resulting in the release of airborne asbestos fibres. Examples of friable asbestos material includes:

  • sprayed on fire proofing material
  • thermal lagging and insulation
  • acoustic insulation material
  • asbestos backed vinyl floor tiles (friable).

4.3.2 Bonded asbestos containing materials

These are compounds reinforced with asbestos fibres in a tightly bound matrix in resin or cement. Generally, in order to pose a risk to health, these products must be subject to a mechanical process such as grinding, sanding or drilling. Mechanical processes can break down the matrix and enable the release of asbestos fibres.

Bonded asbestos products represent an elevated risk when they have been subjected to conditions which disturb the matrix to such an extent that enables the release of the asbestos fibres (e.g. extreme weathering, water damage and physical damage).

Examples of bonded asbestos material includes:

  • asbestos cement sheeting
  • high pressure gaskets
  • friction products (i.e. brake pads, clutch assemblies)
  • asbestos reinforced vinyl floor tiles (bonded).

More information on asbestos can be obtained from WorkCover Queensland website.

4.4 What legislation applies to Queensland Mines?

Relevant mining safety and health legislation includes the Coal Mining Safety and Health Regulation 2001, section 56 and section 88A(2)(3) and (4), and the Mining and Quarrying Safety and Health Regulation 2001, section 55, and section 141(2)(3) and (4).

Queensland mining legislation distinguishes between the two types of asbestos containing products and deals with them under separate sections of the legislation.

4.4.1 Asbestos materials (Friable asbestos)

The Coal Mining Safety and Health Regulation 2001 sections 88A, 88B and the Mining and Quarrying Safety and Health Regulation 2001 sections 141, 142 define Asbestos Materials as installed thermal or acoustic insulation materials containing asbestos.

These regulations only apply to thermal and acoustic insulation (friable asbestos), and do not apply to other asbestos containing products such as brake pads, AC sheeting and vinyl floor coverings etc (Bonded asbestos products).

These regulations list specific requirements that aim to prevent exposure to asbestos materials, including regular inspection of the condition of the asbestos materials. Mines must document the way they manage asbestos materials found in buildings or plant in a Standard Work Instruction or procedure.

4.4.2 Bonded asbestos materials

By definition bonded asbestos products are classified as hazardous substances and as such are captured under section 56 of the Coal Mining Safety and Health Regulation 2001 and section 55 of the Mining and Quarrying Safety and Health Regulation 2001.

Coal mine site senior executives must ensure they have Standard Operating Procedures and metalliferous mine site senior executives must have Standard Work Instructions for using, handling and storing all hazardous substances on site.

4.4.3 Asbestos containing materials register

All asbestos containing materials on site should be identified and form part of the 'asbestos containing materials' register with following details including:


  • dates of inspections
  • locations of asbestos (even locations which are not accessible)
  • details of asbestos containing material
  • results from analysis.

Risk assessment

  • dates of risk assessments and details of the competent person who performed them
  • findings and conclusions of risk assessments
  • results of air monitoring for airborne asbestos fibres.

Control measures

  • the control measures resulting from a risk assessment
  • full details of any maintenance work or service on the asbestos containing material.

It is important that this register is available to all mine workers or contractors, particularly those who may perform work that may disturb asbestos containing materials.

Further guidance can be obtained from section 9.3 of the Code of Practice for the Management and Control of Asbestos in Workplaces [NOHSC:2018 (2005)].

4.5 Asbestos removal

Where the condition of asbestos materials is found to be poorly bonded or unstable, the mine must have the materials removed by a competent person in accordance with NOHSC's document Code of Practice for the Safe Removal of Asbestos [NOHSC: 2002 (2005)].

Site senior executives should be aware that all asbestos removalists in Queensland are certified under the Workplace Health and Safety Act 1995. Asbestos removalists are issued with a Class A or Class B licence. Only holders of Class A licences are permitted to remove friable asbestos (asbestos materials) or large sections of bonded asbestos (greater than 10m2 ).

Class B licence holders are permitted to remove large sections of bonded asbestos products (greater than 10m2 ). Class B licenses do not allow the holder to remove any friable asbestos material.

The removal of less than 10m2 of bonded asbestos does not require a certificate. However it can only be performed by a competent person. A competent person is a person who possesses adequate qualifications, such as suitable training and sufficient knowledge, experience or skill, to perform a specific task safely.

Under Part 7.3 of the Code of Practice for Safe the Removal of Asbestos, asbestos removalists must do the following:

  • provide details of their license to the client
  • develop an asbestos removal control plan before work starts
  • ensure asbestos removal is carried out safely
  • ensure asbestos removal supervisors have appropriate knowledge of precautions and procedures
  • ensure persons performing the removal of asbestos containing material are competent to perform the tasks
  • provide people doing asbestos removal work with adequate training to prevent risk to themselves and others
  • establish a health surveillance program as determined by an assessment of potential risk.

This documentation should be verified by the site senior executive prior to the commencement of any asbestos removal work so the mine can be satisfied that the contractor is operating at an acceptable level of risk. In addition the mine must be satisfied that the contractor is complying with the legislation (the Coal Mining Safety and Health Act 1999 or the Mining and Quarrying Safety and Health Act 1999) and the relevant sections of the mine's safety and health management system.

More information on asbestos removalists is available from WorkCover Queensland website.

4.6 Asbestos occurring naturally at a mine or quarry

The Coal Mining Safety and Health Regulation 2001, section 88B, and the Mining and Quarrying Safety and Health Regulation 2001, section 142, place obligations on the site senior executive to prevent exposure associated with asbestos that is naturally occurring on the mining lease. In addition these regulations set out the requirement for monitoring of airborne asbestos. This must be done in accordance with Guidance Note on the Membrane Filter Method for Estimating Airborne Asbestos Dust [NOHSC: 3003 (2005)].

For comprehensive guidance on managing asbestos in mining operations and managing asbestos that is naturally occurring on a mine site refer to the Government of Western Australia, Department of Mines and Petroleum website.

Authorised by Gavin Taylor - Chief Inspector of Coal Mines


Issued by Queensland Department of Mines and Energy